I think the biggest misconception I have faced while trying to explain what bonsai are, is breaking the idea that a bonsai is what people have seen in Karate Kid.
People in my entourage are now informed about what bonsai are. But, when I meet new people and talk about my interest in bonsai, I am always asked if I got those juniper as bonsai, just like the one’s in Karate kid. I say that I have one, along the fifty others. I always get the same comment: "they are no bonsai, but trees"
Don’t get me wrong, Karate kid was a great push for the bonsai community in America. It help put bonsai into a mainstream market, but also created some misconceptions. Bonsai are not only juniper as seen in Karate Kid. In fact, literally translated from Japanese to English, bonsai means a tree in a pot. So, may we conclude that every tree in a pot is a bonsai, and not just juniper? Aside from the purist bonsaiist who would call a tree in a pot a mere "stick in a pot" since it lacks the strict art guideline of bonsai, I like to say that every tree in a pot is a bonsai.
The bonsai’s seen in the Karate kid’s movies are named "Juniperus procumbens nana" scientifically. They are dwarf garden juniper. They are sold in almost every garden store in America. In their bonsai form, even Kmart and Walmart sell some bonsai in a bag/box. Other then being mistreated and in poor health, these tree don’t have much offer.
Bonsai, as previously said, can be made up with any type of tree. Of course, some species are more popular, because they are easier to dwarf, more tolerant to training techniques and provide a better display of colors and form.
The best question to ask yourself when choosing a species to grow, it is not what species you would prefer, but what species can you grow in your area. Trees are susceptible to climate and temperature. Heat and cold, not all trees support either cold or heat.